Mayor Tim Kabat has proposed a controversial plan to combine the city and county libraries as a money saving move. Supporters say the new proposal would simplify how the libraries are funded and would lower the library tax city residents currently pay. However, city library officials wish the mayor would have spent more time in discussions before making the proposal public.
Right now, the La Crosse public library is funded by city taxpayers, a different tax levy than what is used to pay for county libraries. This is something the mayor is looking to change in a new proposal that would merge city and county services into one.
"You know, about 30% of our usage are from folks that don't live in the city of La Crosse," said Mayor Kabat. "And that really represents an inequity, because we have in essence folks who aren't contributing to the cost of the service and yet they're enjoying it to a pretty large extent."
He hopes the proposal would save the city funds and keep the city libraries afloat while also reducing funding imbalances. However, members of the city library like Library Director Kelly Krieg-Sigman have a concern with moving too fast.
"We do not dispute at all that there are some funding inequities in terms of who is paying for the service versus where the service is being used," said Krieg-Sigman. "But because of the complexity of these two organizations, we need to proceed thoughtfully."
The city does have a plan to look into the benefits and drawbacks of a merger as part of their "One County, One Library" project, but Kabat says it time to take action sooner.
"I think one of the things I'm just a bit frustrated by is that we've known that we've had this issue and yet it doesn't seem like there's been real serious changes to try to address it," the Mayor said.
Whereas, the City Library is looking to have more discussion.
"There are many things that would need to be discussed at length as to how such a merger would feel, who would be reporting to whom, who would be responsible for what... it would be a very long and pretty complicated process."
The Mayor's legislation will move to the Finance and Personnel Committee on September 1st, during which there will be a public hearing where people can voice their input.